End-of-Life Choices: At-Home Pet Euthanasia

by Jessica M. on November 13, 2017

I was “introduced” to Sally when I met and started dating my then-boyfriend/now fiancé, Patrick. She had gone through a series of pet parents before she landed her “forever Daddy.” Patrick and Sally were truly bonded – in fact, I think she was a wee bit jealous of me when I started coming around and stealing some of his affection.

Adjusting to the Circumstances

I moved in with Patrick and Sally in 2013. She was about 11 or 12 years old at that time. It took her some time to come around to me (and her new bonus step-cat-brother that I brought along), but she eventually accepted her new Human Lady Roommate. She was quite the cat – intelligent, feisty, and very independent. She tended to put on a grumpy façade, but nights would often find her curled up in bed — directly on my pillow, kneading my hair.

The Unfortunate Diagnosis 

She started to slow down with age shortly after I moved in, but things took a turn in late summer of 2015. She had always been an enthusiastic fan of food (a girl after my own heart!), but she suddenly lost interest in eating. Even an offering of tuna didn’t pique her interest. A series of vet appointments and tests revealed an aggressive mass at the back of her tongue. There was very little we could have done, so together we focused on giving her the best quality of life during her last earthbound days.

We knew the decision to humanely euthanize her was coming sooner than later. Having had other pets put to sleep at the veterinarian’s office, we knew that, despite everyone’s best intentions, it could be very stressful. Knowing that, I reached out to a service in our area that provided at-home euthanasia for pets. We had a lot of questions – how does it work? Who can be there? What happens to the body?

Ultimately, we decided to move forward with the at-home service. Anyone who has cats knows that vet visits can be stressful, so we hoped that having the vet come to us would allay some of that stress on both Sally and her humans. It was also attractive from an emotional standpoint — putting a pet to sleep is one of the hardest decisions pet parents make, and no one really likes to be in public for such an emotionally taxing event.

Saying Goodbye

The vet came to our apartment on a sunny Sunday morning in late August. Sally was sleeping peacefully at the foot of our bed. The veterinarian that came was extraordinarily kind and compassionate with both Sally and us. From the moment she walked in the door, her gentle bedside manner put us at ease. She readied her supplies in our living room while Patrick and I said our final goodbyes to his sweet cat. When we were ready, the vet came into the bedroom to put Sally to rest. Just like euthanasia at the vet’s office, she explained each step of the process so that we knew what to expect.

It was painless for Sally – and as painless for her humans as such a thing can be. We had chosen cremation, so the visiting vet took her body with her when she left, ensuring us that Sally would continue to be treated with respect and consideration. We were able to pick her remains up about a week later. We both felt strongly through the whole process that we had made the right choice.

At-Home Euthanasia Considerations

There are some special considerations if you choose to euthanize at home. First, it can be a bit costlier than having it done at the office since the vet needs to account for travel time and expenses. A call to your vet to find out about pricing might be wise so that you can compare. Also, some people may not be comfortable having a pet pass at home as they might associate that area of their house with the pet’s passing.

It’s also worth noting that death waits for no one. In Sally’s case, we were lucky because we knew both her diagnosis and her prognosis in advance – and we were able to snag a relatively short-notice appointment once we determined it was her “time.” We have since had to euthanize another of our cats, and in his case, a variety of circumstances meant that at-home euthanasia unfortunately wasn’t an option. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that despite what we might have in mind for our pets, the end of life can be messy and being flexible is key.

Speaking for Patrick and myself, we preferred at-home euthanasia over having it performed at the vet. It was comforting to know that Sally didn’t need to be disturbed in her final hours, and as two emotional people, Patrick and I were just fine with being able to weep at home versus at our vet’s office (we’re both ugly-criers. Trust me — when the two of us get going, it’s not a pretty sight).

We still miss Sally quite a bit. We have two sweet cats at home now (one of which came to us shortly after Sally passed and has some eerily similar traits), but no matter what, you never fill the void that a pet leaves when she passes. We know that someday in the future, we will again face these difficult end-of-life decisions. And if the stars align just right, we’ll opt for at-home euthanasia.


Jessica works as a copywriter on the Drs. Foster and Smith Creative team. She holds a BA in English from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Jessica is a cat-mom to an inquisitive, feisty calico named Zelda and a sweet, snuggly tortie named Morla. She recently relocated to northern Wisconsin from Minneapolis, where she spends her time roaming around in the woods and fighting with the squirrels who are out to destroy her wild bird feeders. Her goal in life is own enough land that she can finally get the pony she's been dreaming about since childhood.

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